Good Beer Hunting

Fervent Few

Fervent Few — Cornucopia Brewtopia

The holidays are almost here, which, for most of us, means taking some beer to a family member’s home. Some of us will play it safe and bring a crowd pleaser, but others will grab something out of the cellar or pick up something unique. This week, we ask the Fervent Few about the experience of bringing beers to an unsuspecting group. Do your cousins spit out that expensive Lambic, or do they fall in love with a patiently crafted Barrel-Aged Stout? Does your mom crave that haze? Do you sit in front of the TV housing whales all by yourself?


Brad: “I was traveling to Portland, OR every week one summer, and I would frequently bring back a lot of De Garde bottles. Since it was summer and we would invite friends over on weekends, a lot of non-craft beer drinkers got to try De Garde's fruited beers. Unsurprisingly, people really enjoyed them. One couple enjoyed them so much they had me make brewery recommendations for their trip to Portland later that year. I'm not sure this couple had ever visited a brewery before that trip, but the beer was so good, it got them excited to go out and explore. They weren't willing to make the 90-minute trip to De Garde and didn't end up loving the other breweries I recommended, but matching De Garde's level is really difficult and at least it got them out trying new things.”

Threefrenchs: “I’ve been homebrewing for a bunch of years, and when I attended parties I would bring some homebrew and other favorites with me. I was now being expected to always bring the ‘good stuff.’ As my daughter turned 21, along with her friends, I was being asked to enlighten them a bit. It got to the point where I had a bunch of twentysomethings only drinking craft. IPA, DIPA, sours, and barrel-aged gems. Of course, they didn’t want to pay for them to drink on a regular basis, but I still get texts and FB messages when they find a beer they love. I have also brewed for the weddings of some of these kids.”

Chris Koentz: “My wife is not a beer person. She’s more of a wine or spirits kind of gal. She will usually take a sip of whatever I have open and give it a try, but that's about it. There is one exception: Side Project sours. I know if I open a Pulling Nails or something like Abricot du Fermier, she will be asking for her fair share, and I am happy to oblige.”

Brad Redick: “My dad was a little slow to craft at first, but I kept at it. I went over to his house when he was doing ribs one day during the dead of summer. He makes his ribs with a pretty sweet sauce. That sweetness really allows you to go any direction for beer pairings. He told me to surprise him. I brought over a Saison that I thought would go nicely with the hot day and the sweet sauce. I wasn't yet able to explain the beer in a way that would make sense of the pairing, so I just told him to "take a bite of the rib, then a sip of the beer." It was instantaneous, his neck whipped towards me and his eyes lit up with the glow of discovery. "Holy shit, that's amazing!" He couldn't believe it. Beer changed for him that day. [Boulevard Brewing’s] Tank 7 won another convert.”

Manny Gumina: “I recently threw a beer pairing dinner for friends and family. It was a four-course meal featuring about 10 different beers. My friends will drink craft beer, but don't necessarily understand beer styles and flavor profiles completely. They use a lot of dark vs. light descriptors.

As I described the food and beer flavors and why the pairings matched well together, everyone played along. They were mostly concerned with how good the food was and not my beer geek bullshit. (My fiancée can cook a mean pork roast).

Until dessert. We paired a gluten-free chocolate cake with New Glarus Cherry Stout. The crowd seemed skeptical at first, but once they had a taste, the room lit up. It was like a collective lightbulb went off.

The sweetness of the pairing probably made it approachable and easy to enjoy. In any case, I don't think I completely flipped a switch on them becoming craft beer aficionados, but it was definitely a teaching moment that I loved to see.”

Alyssa Pereira: “This is just about my favorite hobby, and I actually have a recent one. My mom, a wine-country loyalist, never drank beer until a few years ago, when I gave her a Rochefort 8. She gradually got onboard with abbey-style Belgians, culminating with a trip we took to Belgium a couple years ago. We drank beer all day at Westvleteren, then at Cantillon and Delirium. She goes out of her way to find Belgian beers now, and she's learned how to properly store them, which makes me so proud. My dad has always liked super bitter West Coast IPAs (Pliny is his favorite, of course), but my mom has never gotten into those, so it's become my mission to find her IPA gateway beer. This week, she visited me in San Francisco, and we went to Monk's Kettle. I ordered a freshly canned Alvarado Street Cold Pressed IPA. Since it's kind of soft and pillowy for the style, I gave her a taste. Her eyes lit up: ‘This is the first IPA I've ever liked.’"

Lamar Walker: “Often when I’m out with friends who may not be serious beer drinkers but are willing to try new beer, I’ll be asked to provide a recommendation. My go-to is Port City Optimal Wit. So far, and without fail, the response has gone something like this:  

Friend: *takes a sip, quizzical look overcomes face* ‘This tastes...good…’ *takes another sip* ‘It really has a lot of…’
Me: ‘Flavor?’
Friend: ‘Yes! Flavor! What is this stuff?’

However, my favorite story is my dad, essentially a non-drinker, frowning at my beer selection. He then declares that he wants an American beer! I explain to him that most of the craft beer he is refusing to try is actually American beer and he should try one. Finally, I give up and hand him a beer from my first-ever batch of homebrew. He takes a sip and says, ‘This is good. Now that is an American beer.’”

Pete Marshall: “Three months ago I dragged a bunch of my oldest friends—none of whom were particularly into good beer—around some of the best beer spots in Leeds (in the north of England), taking in Northern Monk Brew Co.'s taproom, and one of the UK's first craft beer bars, North Bar, among many other good bars and pubs.

Three months on, they're now all seeking out good beer, rather than defaulting to the usual macro Lagers, and one in particular has come down the rabbit hole, and found himself on a business trip to NYC, visiting Other Half and drinking The Alchemist beers in Blind Tiger. He muled some Other Half beers and Focal Banger back to the UK for me. It pays to introduce people to better beer!”

Alex Marsh: “I took my managers to Bluejacket in DC for dinner. I ordered a bunch of small pours for us to share. One of my managers was a Bud Light drinker and he sampled [Bluejacket’s] Smoked Oud Bruin and it blew his mind. He drank two full pours.”

Kris Kazaks: “One of my best friends is Brazilian and used to only drink the fizzy yellow water he was used to in his homeland. Here in San Francisco he would always default to a European version (Stella, Kronenbourg 1664). Finally, one day he agreed to go to Toronado with me and got a Pliny. He was blown away. Now he always tries new beers, goes to festivals, and he even started homebrewing!

We are lucky here in the U.S. or the UK with such a plethora of great beer. As places like
Brazil (developing countries) are still a long way from good beer culture, I feel like there must be a lot of easy market share to capture for those with the adventurous spirit and the resources to go be missionaries.”

Zack Rothman: “I’m the only one in my family that really drinks craft beer. I’ve tried to convert my parents and siblings with little success. They’re more than happy to humor me and try beers or join me at a brewery, but they seem to always go back to their non-craft drinks of choice. My dad is a rum and bourbon guy. He hates anything even remotely hoppy. Yet he came with me to several local breweries in Jacksonville, Florida when I was checking out the Jax Ale Trail. One day we visited Veterans United Craft Brewery. He is a veteran himself, so seeing all the military symbols and memorabilia was cool for him. We got a flight of beers, including one beer called Cup O’ Joe, an Oatmeal Espresso Stout. To my surprise, my dad loved the coffee flavor in this dark beer. To this day he remembers it as one of his favorite beers he’s ever tasted.”

C. Sean West: “I'm a big fan of bringing a couple bottles of New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red to Thanksgiving gatherings. I think it pairs really well with a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The bold fruit flavors and tartness resemble cranberry sauce/Welch's sparkling grape juice, which was always around for the kids when I was growing up. It's often the most adventuresome beer many of my extended family have tried, and I get a lot of positive feedback. That's my biggest success, other than that most of my non-beer loving friends and family just humor me and say that's interesting when I'm pushing craft or homebrewed beer on them.”

Jim Plachy: “I brought Goose Island Juliet to a family Thanksgiving dinner and I don’t think a single person enjoyed it. I got a lot of, ‘What is this vinegar?’ Needless to say, I don’t bring sours to family gatherings anymore. However, I have impressed some liquor drinkers with Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stouts.” 

Nick Yoder: “In the summer of 2009, I turned 21. A few weeks after that momentous occasion (marked by repulsing amounts of Wild Blue), I was on my way to a small lake in southwestern Michigan to spend the week with my girlfriend/future wife's family. This was the first time I could actually buy beer for everybody else, so I took my duty seriously. 

Knowing that my future brother-in-law and father-in-law liked 312, I settled on a Goose Island variety pack. I showed up to our little bungalow quite proud of myself. We drank through the first three beers quite easily (312, probably Honker's, and I can't seem to remember what the third may have been). But when we pulled the final beer from its cardboard case, my brother-in-law spat out, ‘Oh, man, an IPA. I don't think we're going to be big fans of this one.’

At this point, I had been trying craft beers, mostly Sam Adams variety packs, 312, and Oberon, but in this strange 2009 world, IPAs were not quite the juggernaut they are today. In fact, I hardly knew what one was, so I typically put a lot of weight on what my more experienced brother-in-law thought. 

The funny thing is that we all tried that Goose Island IPA and we liked it. It wasn't love at first sight, but it was just the push we all needed to give IPAs another shot. Now these guys, the same ones that hated IPAs and drank mostly Sam, fruit, and wheat beers, probably drink more IPAs than any other style.”

Mat: “My dad had never been a big beer drinker in general. But five or so years ago, whenever I traveled home to small-town Illinois, I started leaving random bottles or cans in the fridge. Things like Bell's Amber, Fat Tire, Lil' Sumpin Sumpin, Arrogant Bastard, Dead Guy, etc. It was a bit of a social experiment. Basically, i just wanted to see what would happen. Little did I know I'd created a bit of a monster.

Anchor Steam was the first beer he ever took a picture of and texted to me. Founders Porter was the first beer he ever said 'drank like a meal.' Sierra Nevada Torpedo was the first beer he called 'frickin' abrasive.'

Now, my dad travels throughout the Midwest for his job and there's rarely a week that goes by when we don't talk about some new beer he's tried. When we get together for dinner later this week, his only request was that I find a spot with a 'good draft list.' 

Don't worry, Dad, I'm on it.”

Alex Marino: “I brought home a bottle of Oude Tart for Thanksgiving in 2012.  My dad and brother-in-law had never tried a sour beer before. They both hated it. More for me!  Since then my dad continues to not like sour beers while my brother-in-law has seen the light.

I typically put together a themed flight (fruited beers, holiday beers, etc.) whenever my family gets together, and it's always so interesting to see who likes what. My aunt and cousin don't like anything darker than a Saison, while my grandmother says every beer is ‘incredible, darling.’ (This is after she's had a cocktail or two before the tasting).

At one of my flights, I included Not Your Father's Root Beer just to see their reaction and they all loved it. It blew my mind.

My dad, the sour-hater, loves mostly dark beer, so I had him try some 2014 BCS last year and he couldn't stand the bourbon flavor. This comes from a man that has drank thousands of Manhattans in his life. He just doesn't like the BBA part of the Stout.”

Have you been able to convert friends or family to your favorite beer by springing a bottle on them at parties? Come join the Fervent Few and tell us about this experience, and anything else on your mind. Your support directly helps GBH create more great podcasts, stories, and beautiful photography.

Hosted by Jim Plachy